The electric car, not so green? The most environmentally friendly model is a plug-in hybrid

The greenest car currently is not an electric vehicle (EV). No, it's a plug-in hybrid, according to the results of a study comparing the full life cycle of most of the latest models: it's the Toyota Prime SE.

Toyota eco-friendly plug-in hybrid electric car

Like every year, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (aka ACEEE) looked at the latest car models to determine which one is the most eco-friendly. This study shows a surprising result, since the most environmentally friendly model is not an electric car. Unsurprisingly, it is not a gasoline vehicle either but a plug-in hybrid: the Toyota Prius Prime SE.

The Toyota Prius Prime SE is currently the most environmentally friendly car

To achieve this result, ACEEE assesses the entire life cycle of greenhouse gas emissions as well as major pollutants from production, use and disposal, for each vehicle. Unlike others, this study therefore evaluates vehicles on all of their environmental impact.

It thus establishes a better comparison between electric cars and thermal cars. Indeed, in addition to evaluating emissions from the fuel consumed by the vehicle, the results also show the upstream emissions generated by the manufacturing of each model. This includes in particular the very polluting extraction of minerals intended for batteries.

With these parameters, the ACEEE establishes a score for each model, for a ranking as follows:

eco-friendly careco-friendly car
Credit: ACEEE

Although the most ecological car is not electric, the results still show the trend: no thermal model appears in the ranking. Unfortunately, these remain the best-selling cars in Europe in January. Above all, the top 5 is made up of four electric vehicles for a plug-in hybrid. But the example shown by the Toyota Primus Prime SE still leads to reflection.

Read > Mercedes-Benz puts the handbrake on its electric car ambitions

Electric cars are not a miracle solution

There is no need to oppose electric cars to plug-in hybrids, however the electric car is often seen as a miracle solution that will save us from car-related pollution. Obviously this is not the case, even compared to other types of vehicles.

Moreover, the manufacturing of electric cars consumes a lot of water. Indeed, their batteries require a whole battery of rare metals such as cobalt or lithium, which the mining industry is responsible for extracting. These processes are extremely demanding on water resources. With increasingly severe droughts induced by global warming, it will soon be difficult to supply the market.

For some like the engineer and essayist Laurent Castaignède, the electric car is therefore an ecological mirage, which leads us straight to disaster. There is still hope: mining industry processes could improve, as could battery technologies.

  • The most environmentally friendly car according to the ACEEE ranking is the Toyota Prius Prime SE.
  • The study is based on several parameters which allow a better comparison between thermal and EV.
  • This result leads to reflection on the electric car, sometimes seen as a miracle solution.

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